During the first two weeks of December there was a prolonged cold settled. This was in contrast to the mild December of 2021 which had no negative temperatures. The latter half of December was milder but unsettled.
During this unsettled spell, on Monday 19 December there was a report of an immature Arctic Skua flying north past Pirnmill. At the time there were lots of auks and Kittiwakes pushed into Kilbrannan Sound by the weather. Other more usual winter visitors in December included five Purple Sandpiper on Silver Sands on 13th, one hundred Fieldfare at Auchareoch also on 13th and four Redwing at Porta Buidhe on 18th.
Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: six Whooper Swan in Feorline on 1st, fifty Pink-footed Geese in the Shiskine Valley on 8th, two male Goldeneye on Mossend Pond also on 8th, four hundred Greylag Geese in Clauchlands on 9th, twenty-seven Teal at Carlo on 13th and nineteen Wigeon by Auchagallon Jetty on 15th.
Other groups of wintering birds included: nineteen Lapwing at Kilpatrick Point on 3rd, thirty Curlew in Glenkiln also on 3rd, one hundred Starling in Kilpatrick on 4th, sixteen Turnstone in Clauchlands on 6th, fifty-two Ringed Plover also in Clauchlands on 9th, nineteen Golden Plover in Catacol Bay on 11th, twelve Redshank in Whiting Bay also on 11th, twenty-six Rock Pipit in Porta Buidhe also on 11th, twenty Reed Bunting in Auchareoch on 13th, thirty Jackdaw on Shiskine Golf Course on 21st, twenty-nine Oystercatcher on Ormidale pitches on 22nd and ten Bullfinch in Kildonan also on 22nd.
Again this year, both Kingfisher and Little Egret appeared on Arran after the breeding season. In December there were seven further reports of Kingfisher, all from the east coast of Arran. All were of single birds except for two in Brodick at the front on 9th. In addition, in December there were twenty-five further reports of Little Egret. While most reports were from the east coast there were two from the west coast. All were single birds except for two in Lamlash Bay on 14th.
Other interesting records this month included: a pair of Goosander by Fisherman’s Walk on 1st, five Red-throated Diver at Clauchlands on 6th, three Snipe also at Clauchlands on 6th, two Little Grebe on Mossend Pond on 8th, one Snow Bunting on Cir Mhor on 9th, two Woodcock in Glenkiln on 10th, five Red Grouse on the Urie on 15th, two White-tailed Eagles at Dougarie Point on 17th, eleven Common Crossbill at Dunan Mor on 21st and four Great Northern Diver off Drumadoon Point on 22nd.
Although still in the depth of winter there were some signs of approaching spring with, eight Red-breasted Merganser displaying by Fisherman’s Walk on 8th, sixty-eight Eider courting by Gortonallister on 9th, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Brodick Country Park on 12th and a Song Thrush singing in Brodick on 24th.
Gardens provide a safe refuge for some birds in winter. Among the many records received were: twenty Long-tailed Tit in Corrie on 11th, three Wren in Alma Park on 20th, a Goldcrest in Pirnmill on 23rd and also in Pirnmill fifteen Blackbird on 26th, ten Siskin also on 26th and ten Goldfinch on 27th.
Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Friday 27 to Sunday 29 January. That weekend stock up your bird feeders, spend one hour of your weekend watching your garden birds, and note down the highest number you see of each bird species. This is the weekend of the “Big Garden Birdwatch”. Last year nearly half a million people throughout the UK and over thirty on Arran took part in this valuable exercise. For more information and to get the free starter pack, visit the RSPB website Big Garden Birdwatch http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ . If you do decide to take part, please share your records with me.